Engineering or Science? What’s the Best Path for You?

Here are some key differences between science and engineering, to help choose the best path for you.

Design & Innovation Day, Kai Jacobson

Your high school education has likely included lots of science courses – physics, chemistry and biology. But you’ve probably not taken any engineering classes. That can make it hard to know whether engineering or science is the better choice for your undergraduate degree.

However, the good news is that if you enjoy your science and math classes and have a passion for problem-solving, you’ll likely enjoy engineering as well! But as you can read below, there are some key differences between science and engineering.

Engineers apply their knowledge of science to develop solutions

When you do a science degree, you study the physical and natural world, gaining fundamental knowledge about how these systems work. You’ll make observations and collect data, develop hypotheses, and test your assumptions through controlled experiments.

When you study engineering, you still have a foot in the world of science. The difference is that you’re using your understanding of science to develop solutions to specific problems.

For example, a scientist might collect and analyze water in a remote community to see if it is safe to drink. An engineer would use the collected data to develop chemical, biological or physical water treatment options that could work within various economic or physical constraints. The engineer would then prototype and test the proposed solution, and implement it in partnership with the community so that community members can access clean, safe drinking water. (And if you want to consider the whole picture, it was likely an engineer that initially designed the water quality testing equipment!)

As Dr. Rehan Sadiq, Executive Associate Dean of Engineering at UBC Okanagan, explains, engineering is “science in action,” with engineers applying “the fundamentals of science to make something useful.”

Engineers can start working in their field right away

Graduating with a science degree gives you many career options. You can look for work in your field or pursue a graduate degree. If you’re interested in working in a profession where you’ll use your knowledge of science – becoming a doctor, dentist or pharmacist, for example – you’ll need to continue to apply to a professional degree program and complete further education.

An undergraduate engineering degree is a professional degree (at UBC, engineers graduate with a Bachelor of Applied Science). This means you can start working in your area right after your graduate (and even gain some experience as an undergraduate, if you do co-op) without investing further time and money in another post-secondary credential.

Of course, you can also pursue graduate school in engineering or enter other professional degree programs such as medicine or law. Many engineers go on to start their own businesses or become leaders of companies (check out our article Engineers Make Great Leaders to learn some of the reasons why more Fortune 500 companies are led by engineers than people with any other degree).

Engineers Make Great Leaders

Engineering is a high-paying career

Engineers are valued. Two-thirds of the highest-paying disciplines are in engineering, with median annual earnings for engineers ranging from $70,000 to $120,000. Engineers are hired into good-paying jobs right after graduating, and they are in high demand, with the number of jobs far exceeding the number of qualified people.

UBC Engineering  prepares you to excel and make an impact

Take a look at the foundational first-year courses you’ll take at UBC Engineering and you’ll see some familiar subjects. You’ll be taking physics, chemistry, biology and calculus, as well as a course focusing on engineering and an elective. Your science and math courses are taught through an engineering lens, meaning that the examples and projects you’ll study will be directly relevant to engineering classes.

Foundation year

This strong foundation in science and math provides the foundation for your engineering career. You’ll apply that knowledge to make an impact in the world – solving complex challenges, developing more environmentally friendly processes and products, creating new technology, ensuring our cities are more resilient to the impacts of climate change and so much more.

The degree you’ll graduate with says it all: a Bachelor of Applied Science tells others that you have the skills to apply your knowledge of science to make the world a better place.

Want to know more? 

An engineering student at the Design and Innovation day exhibit

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Design & Innovation Day, Kai Jacobson

Start Your Future at UBC Engineering

You may not know yet if you’re interested in leading an organization. But one thing is certain. Starting your future at UBC Engineering will give you a well-balanced education and sought-after skills – the first step and the foundation for a challenging and rewarding career.

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